Motorcycles come in all shapes and sizes, ranging in style, design, engine capacity, weight, and ability. In this list, I have collected some of the world's best superbikes and their consumer counterparts, making note of the different mechanical specs, along with the history of the bikes, related models and the companies that made them. Each one of these bikes excels in some area and I have tried to include options for every type of rider: the casual cruiser, the off-road adventurer or the thrill-seeking street racer.
To give some background, superbikes are motorcycles that have engine capacities of 1000cc (or just next to it) and have also been referred to as hyperbikes. These bikes have grown in production in the last 50 years, as the first "superbike" was the Honda CB750, released in 1969. From there, bikes continued to get faster and faster and after the release of the Suzuki Hayabusa in 1999, a gentleman's agreement was reached between the worlds biggest motorcycle manufacturers to limit the top speed of production motorcycles to 186 MPH. This agreement lasted a little while, but soon enough, manufacturers continued the competition to create faster and faster bikes, resulting in the myriad of 200+ MPH motorcycles we have today, many of which I've included in this list.
Now to preface the better-than-average bikes on the second half of the list: all of the bikes are priced under $12,000 and don't exceed more than 100 horsepower, making them solid, consumer-grade motorcycles. This differs from the superbike list, as all of them are rated at over 100 horsepower and cost an arm and a leg.
So, with that out of the way, let's discuss the best superbikes and their solid consumer counterparts.
20 Kawasaki Ninja H2
Equipped with a 998cc engine, the Ninja H2 is a force to be reckoned with and is quite literally the fastest production motorcycle on the market. Outputting around 310 horsepower, the Ninja H2 has a top speed of 249 MPH and is restricted to track driving due to it's power The bike weighs just under 500 pounds, creating a power to weight ratio that leaves most other bikes in the dust, but of course this is what you’d expect from Kawasaki, one of the most reputable motorcycle manufacturers in the world. Prices for the H2 start around $28,000, a respectable price for such a powerful superbike.
19 Ducati Palingale V4
The Palingale V4, aside from having a totally awesome name, is a sport motorcycle produced by Italian manufacturer Ducati. The bike has a displacement of 1,103cc, outputting about 214 horsepower from a Desmosedici Stradale V4 engine.
The Palingale V4 is the successor of Ducati’s other famous superbike, the 1299, and before that the 1199.
Different models of the Palingale include the V4 S, which has a more lightweight construction, utilizing aluminum wheels and a lithium battery.
18 MV Agusta F4 RR
MV Agusta, the Italian motorcycle manufacturer, was founded in 1945 and was mostly focused on motorcycle racing, competing in Grand Prix races until 1976 after the death of Count Domenico Agusta, one of the founders.
The F4 RR did not come until many years later, in 2011, as part of the already expansive F4 series. The bike was equipped with 998cc engine that could output just over 200 horsepower, maxing out at about 200 MPH. Contrary to the F4 RR, the other bikes in the F4 series are also pretty amazing, some of which were even able to set speed records in the early 2000s.
17 Aprilia RSV4
Beginning production in 2009, Aprilia, introduced the RSV4, a superbike equipped with a 999cc engine that can output just over 200 horsepower. The bikes nimble design and total weight (458 lbs) allows riders to safely reach speeds of 170+ MPH.
The bike is designed primarily for racing, as it has been entered into different races by Aprilia, including its debut in the 2009 Superbike World Championship season.
In the 2009 season, and many more recent seasons, different riders have used Aprilia bikes, including the RSV4 as well as other custom bikes that were built on the RSV4 platform.
16 BMW S1000RR
Much like the Aprilia RSV4, the BMW S1000RR was initially designed to compete in the 2009 Superbike World Championship, however, it was later decided by BMW that the bike should enter the consumer market and production for consumer sales started in 2010. The bike is rated at 199 horsepower, with a displacement of 999cc, maxing out at about 188 MPH, making it a great contender for racing.
The S1000RR has competed in a myriad of different races across the world, including the famous Isle of Man race as well as the Macau Grand Prix. An interesting tidbit about the S1000RR comes from its marketing campaign: BMW released a video on YouTube advertising the S1000RR that showed the bike pulling a tablecloth from a fully set table. I decided to watch the video and I have to say, it was pretty cool.
15 Kawasaki ZX-12R
Entering production in 2000, the Kawasaki Ninja ZX-12R is an incredible sports bike that was, for some time, the fastest production bike on the market. The 1,199cc engine can produce about 178 horsepower and tops out at about 197 MPH.
The ZX-12R was initially an attempt by Kawasaki to compete with the Suzuki Hayabusa, as the two bikes are incredibly similar in design and handling.
Both bikes are easy to control at low speeds and nimble in traffic but have the acceleration to leave most other bikes in the dust, creating an all around amazing superbike.
14 Suzuki Hayabusa
One of the most iconic, legendary motorcycles ever made, the Suzuki Hayabusa was first introduced in 1999, boasting a top speed of 186 MPH. Interesting enough, the bike’s name, when translated from Japanese, means “Peregrine Falcon,” a bird of prey that can reach staggeringly high swooping speeds.
The build of the bike includes a 1,299cc engine, rated at about 172 horsepower, but many other custom models have been modified to reach much higher power levels. In fact, a heavily modified and turbocharged Hayabusa was used to set a new world speed record of 311 MPH.
13 BMW K1200S
Another release from the German manufacturer, the BMW K1200S was only produced for a very short amount of time, making it a sort of hidden gem.
The K1200S is equipped with a 1157cc engine that could produce 167 horsepower, giving the bike a top speed of about 178 MPH.
Unfortunately enough, the BMW K1200S was discontinued in 2006, as BMW moved on to different motorcycle designs like the K1300S and R1200S.
12 Suzuki GSX-R1000
The Suzuki GSX-R1000 is a bike, that in its production history, has undergone quite a few changes. The L7, which is the 2017 model of the bike, is the most recent, outputting about 156 horsepower from a 999cc engine. Introduced in 2001, the GSX-R1000 replaced the GSX-R1100 and became the most powerful bike in the GSX series.
However, R1000 and R1100 were essentially the same bike, as the R1000 used many of the same design aspects, including an almost identical frame.
11 Yamaha YZF-R1
Part of a long lineage of amazing motorcycles, the Yamaha YZF-R1 was a new addition to the family in 2015, boasting a myriad of new mechanical changes and upgrades. Most notably, the new electronics package for the YZF-R1, which includes new additions to different handling systems to make the bike even better than before.
New systems implemented into the bike include traction and slide control systems, launch control systems, lift control systems and quick shift systems. Aside from this, the YZF got some other upgrades to power, putting the output at about 162 horsepower, coming from its 998cc engine, securing its place on this list.
10 Polaris Indian Scout Bobber
At 100 HP and a price tag of about $12,000, the Polaris Indian Scout Bobber is the most powerful of the non-superbike motorcycles on this list. The Indian Motorcycle Company has been producing bikes since its foundation in 1901, and at one time was considered the largest motorcycle manufacturer in the world.
The Scout Bobber was one of the earliest motorcycles designed by Indian and since their acquisition by Polaris in 2011, 2018 versions of the old companies bikes, like the Scout, are being redesigned and released. Pretty incredible bike if you ask me and totally set apart from the street bike appearance that many other bikes on this list have.
9 Aprilia Shiver 900
As the name suggests, the Aprilia Shiver 900 has a 900cc, 4 twin-cylinder engine that can output around 93 horsepower and 66 ft-lbs of torque.
Much like its cousin bike, the Aprilia Dorsoduro, the Shiver 900 is classified as a naked bike, meaning that it is essentially a “standard” motorcycle, versatile in general riding application but not rated for specific terrains/riding styles.
So then, the Aprilia 900 is a pretty good bike and has the power to satisfy even the craziest of motorcycle daredevils but would also be suitable for the average rider due to its classification as a “standard” motorcycle.
8 Yamaha MT-07
As opposed to many of the superbikes on this list, the Yamaha MT-07 uses a much smaller engine, with a displacement of 689cc, outputting 74 horsepower, but weighing only 398lbs. Smaller engine means less weight and less weight means better power to weight ratio, creating an awesome bike that is speedy, nimble and light.
In fact, Roland Brown of the Daily Telegraph gave this bike 5 out of 5 stars, citing the engine, handling and overall “bang for your buck” as the primary reasons for its incredibly high rating.
Motorcycle News also rated this bike at 5 out of 5 stars for many of the same reasons, including the aforementioned benefits of a light body construction when compared with the power output of the bike.
7 Kawasaki Ninja 650
Also called the ER-6f, the Kawasaki Ninja 650 is an incredible motorcycle that can put out about 68 horsepower from a 649cc DOHC parallel twin, engine equipped with digital fuel injection. Part of a long legacy of amazing motorcycles, the Ninja 650 is part of Kawasaki’s Ninja series, which traces its roots back to the 1980s. The 650 was not introduced until 2006, but since then, has been an incredible, evolving addition to the Ninja family.
Over the years, there have been minor adjustments to the 650, such as improved handling, improved engine mounting, anti-lock braking systems and aesthetic upgrades. Needless to say, the Ninja 650 has grown to be an adequate addition to the legendary Ninja series, securing its place on this list.
6 Kawasaki Vulcan S
The Vulcan series traces its roots back to 1985, when Kawasaki launched their first cruiser-style motorcycle, named the Vulcan VN700A. Since then, Kawasaki has made a series of additions to the Vulcan family, including the more recent, Vulcan S.
The Vulcan S comes equipped with a 649cc engine that can output about 54 horsepower.
Much like the Polaris Indian Scout, the Vulcan is a larger cruising motorcycle that isn’t built to have incredible power and agility, but instead, provides the rider a laid-back, casual riding experience. However, it’s not fair to completely classify the Vulcan as just a cruiser, because it does share some of the same attributes as other sports bikes. In fact, it essentially has the same engine as the Ninja 650!
5 Honda CBR500R
The Honda CBR500R is one of three in the Honda CBR500 series, all of which are equipped with a 471cc engine, putting out about 46 horsepower. The CBR500 series was introduced in 2013 with 3 models: the CBR500R, CBR500F, and CBR500X. The CBR500R is essentially the sportbike of the group, as the 500F is classified as a naked bike and the 500X is an off-road adventure bike.
Since 2013, all of the bikes have undergone different changes, including bigger fuel tanks, a redesign of the exhaust system and other cosmetic upgrades. All in all, the CBR500 series, especially the CBR500R is a great choice for a solid, midsize motorcycle.
4 Royal Enfield Continental GT650
With a capacity of 646cc and 47 horsepower, the Royal Enfield Continental GT 650 is an amazing reinterpretation of Royal Enfields 1960s style roadsters. It's important to take note of Royal Enfield’s long winded history, which begins in the 1800s when George Townsend and his son, who initially crafted sewing needles, began making components for cycle manufacturers.
The Townsends’ business was eventually incorporated and Royal Enfield was born, introducing their first motorcycle in 1901. This means that Royal Enfield is one of the longest, continually producing motorcycle manufacturers, giving credibility to their newly released, Continental 650 GT, securing its place on this list.
3 Suzuki Boulevard S40
The Suzuki Boulevard S40 is an extremely lightweight, powerful cruiser, weighing in at 381 lbs, and outputting 31 horsepower from a 652cc engine. The Boulevard S40 was introduced in 1986 as the LS650 Savage, but underwent a name change in 2004 as well as other minor changes throughout its lifetime.
The Suzuki Boulevard S40 is a direct competitor with the other compact cruiser style bikes that became so popular in the late 80s and early 90s, such as, the Kawasaki Vulcan and Yamaha Virago.
However, what set the Boulevard S40 apart from other bikes is the lighter construction of an air-cooling system for the engine, as opposed to a heavier, liquid cooling system.
2 Suzuki GSX 250R
The GSX250R is one of Suzuki's newest additions to their product line, not to be confused with the GSX-R series. Although, it's clear that bikes from the GSX-R series, like the aforementioned GSX-R1000, inspired the design of the 250R.
The GSX250R boasts a 249cc engine and about 24 horsepower, which comparatively, isn’t a whole lot, but considering the rather low price of the bike, it's palpable.
I think the main message with the GSX250R is, “practicality meets sports style,” most notably because the bike has sports style inspiration, but is affordable, handles well and isn’t exactly mechanically rated for performance. This is what makes it so solid though, it’s a bike for the most practical of riders and that’s a valuable niche in its own right.
1 Honda Grom
The Honda Grom has got to be one of my favorite bikes currently on the market, because it captures the pocket-rocket aesthetic in a street legal package. Weighing in at a staggeringly low 229 lbs, the Grom is propelled by a 10 horsepower, 124cc engine, making for an incredibly agile ride and superior handling ability.
Don’t just take my word for it either: the Honda Grom won the Motorcycle of the Year award in 2014 and has become a well recognized bike among motorcycle enthusiasts everywhere. But I mean, come on, who doesn’t want to ride an adult pocket rocket?
Sources: Cycle World, Sport Rider, Popular Mechanics, The Mysterious World, Cheat Sheet